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Love and Debt: Why you need to talk about money

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Where to go for mortgage and debt help

What You Should Know About Debt Settlement

Create a plan to deal with medical debt

Options for Higher Education

Will Changes in Credit Reporting Affect You?

What to do if your medical bills are turned over to collections

What to do if your spouse can't pay his or her bills

What to do when a family member ruins your credit

Homeownership is possible

What you need to know about the IRS and collection agencies

Will being turned down for a store credit card hurt my credit?

Beware of credit repair

Debt Management versus Debt Settlement

How to get ahead of late fees

Is There a Service That Helps You Not Pay Bills

Is a Debt Owed

Patience is the key to furnishing a new home

How to split expenses with your partner

Will my boyfriend's bad credit affect me?

What to do if your account is turned over to collections

Personal Credit and Starting a Business

Finding Money to Reduce Your Debt and Improve Your Credit

Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Debt Settlement

Understanding credit utilization

The pros and cons of skipping a payment

Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

What to do when a relative asks you for money

Should You Buy a Home Now or Wait?

The difference between debt settlement and debt management

The negative impact of paying a payment 30 days late

Stressed by Finances

How to navigate two significant financial decisions: starting a family and buying a home

How to advise someone close to you who is coming into a significant amount of money

Make a Conscious Decision on How to Spend Your Money

How do you know if you have a good credit score?

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Having Good Credit Saves You Money

Developing good money habits with your first job

How to save for a home

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

When is the right time to buy a home?

You can improve your credit to buy a home

Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Incurring Debt

The Hidden Costs of Payday Loans

Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

Use Caution when playing the credit card game

What does it mean to say bankruptcy gives you a clean slate?

How your credit is affected by various debt options

Be wary of predatory small business loans

What to do if you fall behind on mortgage payments

Financing a College Education

Money, Credit and Relationships

Should you be concerned with your date's credit scores?

Best options for a small, short-term loan

How to help a relative who is always borrowing money from you

Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

What to do if you are overwhelmed by medical bills

Make your financial intention a financial goal you can achieve

What to do when a collector calls you

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

What do I need to know to pay ahead on my mortgage?

What to do if you get an unsolicited credit card in the mail

What to do when moving in to share expenses doesn't work out

What to do when a family member ruins your credit

Q. My wife recently checked her credit report and found several accounts on it that she did not open.  After further review, we noticed that some of the accounts were opened years ago, before my wife even turned 18. We suspect that my mother-in-law used my wife’s Social Security number to open these accounts because she could not get credit in her own name.  Even worse, some of these accounts have past due balances on them. What can we do to clear this up?

A. Identity theft is a tough pill to swallow; it’s even worse when someone we love is behind that theft. Sadly, familial identity theft happens more often than you might think, and sorting through the aftermath takes some guts, time and lots persistence. 

To handle this situation, your wife will need to contact each creditor’s fraud department and explain that she was not of legal age to open the accounts. She will also need to be ready to explain that she believes her mother was responsible for doing so. Your wife should be prepared to provide proof that she was not old enough to open the accounts.

After this, the creditors in question will probably advise your wife to file a police report, which is the equivalent of turning her mother in for fraud. Filing a police report will be necessary for closing the accounts that don’t belong to your wife. In the meantime, you and your wife may also consider consulting an attorney who can offer you legal counsel.

If you and our wife would choose not to turn in her mother, you really only have two other options. You could live with the bad credit, knowing that creditors could come after your wife for payment and late fees. Or you could pay the accounts in full. The latter option will show the accounts have been paid, but the delinquency will continue to appear on your wife’s credit report and continue to affect her score negatively for years down the road.

It can be tempting to cover someone’s tracks because we love a person and want to protect them from difficult consequences, but I’d advise you to meet the problem head on—and the sooner the better. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

You don’t want to find out you are unable to purchase a car or home because of accounts that don’t belong to you. Ultimately, you and your wife did not choose to be put in this situation, but you have been forced into resolving it.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.